Video Interop in Lync

By Shelly Marston, Senior Product Marketing Manager, Lync

In my role on the Lync Marketing team, I look after Lync Meetings — audio, video, and web conferencing — and the video workload. So I was particularly attentive in Tony Bates’ keynote at Lync Conference 2013 a month ago, especially to the commitment of delivering interoperability with third-party video teleconference (VTC) vendors in the next 12-18 months. As I met with customers, partners, and analysts at the show, they all wanted to better understand what this will look like when delivered and what is available to them today. With Enterprise Connect 2013 starting today (Mar 18-21 in Orlando), I thought it was a good time to share the details of those conversations with you. I’ll do my best to answer their questions and more below, as well as provide some context around why this topic is important.

Interoperability: An Overview

Interoperability is a means or mechanism that allows disparate systems to work together.

Historically, point-to-point video and video conferencing capabilities in the enterprise have been delivered by hardware-based video teleconference (aka VTCs) or telepresence systems. Enterprises that have embraced these traditional video conferencing solutions over the last 5-15 years are likely to have invested significant budget for hardware and maintenance. These deployments are commonly a single vendor’s solutions resulting in assets from Polycom, Cisco/Tandberg, or other vendor VTCs deployed in conference rooms distributed across the enterprise’s locations.

These same enterprises, now ready to deploy Lync as a unified communications platform, are looking for ways to preserve their capital investment in these systems by using the VTCs as audio/video endpoints accessible to and from Lync. Alternatively, some customers may have an active video conferencing user community and plan to augment their solution offering with Lync. Others view Lync as a legitimate replacement to VTCs or telepresence. They might choose to leverage interoperability between Lync and VTCs/telepresence systems in the interim while migrating end users from the hardware estate to Lync.

These concepts are not unique to video. There are obvious parallels to Lync interoperability with legacy telephony solutions. In order for customers to deploy Lync Enterprise Voice, the ability to communicate with the existing telephony estate may be required — from IP-PBXs to Gateways to Session Border Controllers — whether as an interim solution or for long-term coexistence. As a result, we have grown the UC Open Interoperability Program (UCOIP) to include more than forty SIP Trunking providers and dozens of infrastructure providers across the telephony spectrum.  

To some extent, the scenarios specific to video are a reflection of the unified communications maturity curve and the journey our customers take when deploying and adopting Lync in their enterprises.

Video Interoperability with Lync Today

So how do customers achieve video interop today?

Microsoft supports the Microsoft Lync Video Interoperability Program (VIP) which tests and qualifies partners’ video solutions to provide interoperability with Microsoft Lync Server 2010 and Lync 2013 to provide a premium experience for customers. The program offers support, via the Lync Partner Engineering team, to third parties as they navigate the technical documentation and understand the finer details of the signaling and media implementations in Lync 2013.

This allows partner companies who participate in VIP such as Polycom, LifeSize, Vidyo, and Radvision (Avaya) to deliver solutions that allow video interoperability between Lync and VTCs. Many of these partners will also be attending Enterprise Connect 2013, so feel free to visit to their booths for more details.

What about Cisco?

Customers with Cisco/Tandberg VTC investments frequently ask me if Lync 2013 interoperability with Cisco/Tandberg is possible today. And if so, how?

Microsoft has, by referring to the guidelines of the Video Interoperability Program (though Cisco is not participating in the VIP), advised Cisco on the specifics of Lync 2013 signaling and extension updates required to support the new features and leveraging H.264 AVC for higher quality experiences.

A basic assessment concluded positively that interoperability between Lync 2013 and Tandberg VTCs with Video Communication Sever (aka VCS B2B UA) was achievable with minor modifications of the VCS. With Lync 2013, transcoding is no longer required. Hence, there is no need for the expensive Cisco Advanced Media Gateway. In this new interoperability mode, the codec used natively by both systems is H.264 AVC resulting in a higher quality video experience for the end user than was the case with Lync 2010 interoperability. H.263 is no longer required.

I sincerely hope Cisco continues this partnership by submitting its solution for further testing and/or qualification in the Video Interoperability Program. When customers ask me what they can do to promote progress in this regard, I suggest that they encourage Cisco to participate in the VIP.

"Built-in" Video Interoperability

I am energized by what the future holds for Lync 2013 video interoperability!

As announced by Tony Bates at Lync Conference 2013, Lync will support video interoperability, with Cisco/Tandberg VTCs specifically, within 12-18 months. With this capability “built in” to Lync, third-party gateways or MCUs (including Cisco VCS) will no longer be required to achieve interoperability.

Interoperability “built in” to Lync will:

  • Reduce complexity
  • Eliminate the need to purchase and/or maintain additional equipment
  • Provide more choice to enterprises as they deploy and adopt Lync as their unified communications platform

Ultimately, we think this will help customers achieve the above goals I mentioned in the overview, while simultaneously unlocking the full potential of Lync!

For others, interoperability will be a “means to an end” for an interim period as they consider transitioning to Lync 2013 clients and Lync Room Systems. Lync Room System is a great option for new investments, such as new conference rooms or where there is a need to increase capacity. Between Lync mobile apps and Lync Room System, we have delivered a comprehensive suite of clients with the most to offer across IM, presence, Lync Meetings, and P2P audio/video capabilities.

If you’re attending Enterprise Connect 2013, stop by our booth! You’ll see the new Lync — including our new Lync Room System solution — and have an opportunity to question the experts. I hope you enjoy the show, and I look forward to continuing this dialogue in the coming months!

Comments (34)

  1. Anonymous says:

    Hi, Good info… You mention that "… achievable with minor modifications of the VCS". Has Microsoft or Cisco published info on the modifications required to achieve this integration ?


  2. Peter (cont.) says:

    I think, unfortunately, the lack of participation in the VIP program by Cisco is indicative of Cisco not feeling the pressure or need to move further towards supporting the new Lync 2013 video protocols.  Thus, services such as Blue Jeans would still be preferable to the costly, and complex deployment of VCS -not to mention its licensing and connection limitations.

    Another area severely lacking in the integration paradigm is desktop/application sharing.  "Legacy" solutions still use the H.239, multi-stream technology.  While this does work well for legacy systems (separate content streams of up to 1080p/30fps), it lacks in the comparable ease of use that users comfortable with the Lync paradigm are accustomed to.  While Polycom is moving towards an "improved" direction with the RealPresence line of products, the end result is still a combined video stream of content and video.  The fidelity of which is still not on par with the native solution of each -respectively.  Perhaps their bet is that Microsoft will meet them somewhere in the middle with HTLM 5?

    In my opinion, Lync, and especially Lync 2013, is still targeted towards the inclusion of video for the masses as opposed to the top down, large investment in "Executive Rooms".  Granted with the forthcoming release of Lync Room (as well as similar solutions from Life Size, Creston, and Polycom), Microsoft is making inroads towards a viable alternative.  Nonetheless, customers want to maximize their current investments in their video conferencing rooms.  While I think organizations are, and will continue to view Lync as an opportunity to increase ROI for video conferencing delivery to the "masses", I am not sure it "bridges" the gap between an organization's video  investment in Video Conferencing Rooms and maximizing their adoption ROI.

    I am very much hoping that the VIP program will move all the major players closer to a "unified" solution that will allow greater numbers of users to attend room-based video conferences from remote/external locations.  From an investment perspective, I see customers investing the majority of their video capital in Room Solutions that service a small percentage of their user based.  Opening up inclusion to remote video conferencing attendees via Lync will a strong consideration – that is, as long as fidelity and quality of experience are maintained.  I believe this will only come about through better integration and a more "natural" user experience.

  3. Peter says:

    Point of interest:  H.264 AVC is an older construct of H.264.  Most of the major vendors, including MSFT, now support H.264 SVC (although in MSFT's case, they only support up to Mode 1 and do not currently support Mode 2s, Mode 2q, nor the Full Scaling functionality of SVC Mode 3).

  4. says:

    As a customer assistance officer for RBC bank is important for me sending clear messages to my colleagues and sometimes laking on time an image speaks better…so I would need to have the Meeting face to face ICON for the MSN office communicateur back. Please and Thank you !!

  5. Garry Trinder says:

    At Enterprise Connect today Polycom said it has achieved Lync 2013 qualification for its VVX Business Media Phones, and laid out its plan for Lync 2013 interop across all video solutions. Click here if you want to read the press release:

  6. GAdget says:

    "I sincerely hope Cisco continues this partnership by submitting its solution for further testing and/or qualification in the Video Interoperability Program. When customers ask me what they can do to promote progress in this regard, I suggest that they encourage Cisco to participate in the VIP."

    Why wouldn't Microsoft just support true open standards video to inter-operate with existing standards. Lync H.264SVC uses proprietary extensions. Video calling needs to be as simple as a phone call via standards like SIP URI dialing i.e. without having to federate before I make a call to a non-Lync user.

  7. Jack says:

    If Iwant to interop H264 SVC with lync2013.

    MCU  <———>lync  2013 server <——————–> lync2013 clientA

    As showed above,Lync2013 clientsA and MCU register on lync 2013 server successfully.

    Then MCU launch a video call with lync2013 clientA。The SIP/SDP signaling of MCU is compiant with [MS-SDPEXT]( Microsoft’s specific implementation of Session Initiation Protocol )。But  The SDP signaling  which lync 2013 server respond  have not H264 SVC. The received media stream of MCU is not H264 SVC。

    So,my question is How to interop lync2013 server/client with H264 SVC.?

    As Showed below is signaling of MCU sended to lync 2013:

    c=IN IP4

    t=0 0

    m=audio 10012 RTP/AVP 0 97

    a=rtpmap:0 PCMU/8000

    a=rtpmap:97 telephone-event/8000

    a=fmtp:97 0-15



    m=video 10010 RTP/AVP 122 121 123




    a=rtcp-fb:* x-message app send:src,x-pli recv:src,x-pli





    a=rtpmap:122 X-H264UC/90000

    a=fmtp:122 packetization-mode=1;mst-mode=NI-TC

    a=rtpmap:121 x-rtvc1/90000

    a=x-caps:121 263:1920:1080:30.0:2000000:1;4359:1280:720:30.0:1500000:1;8455:640:480:30.0:600000:1;12551:640:360:30.0:600000:1;16647:352:288:15.0:250000:1;20743:424:240:15.0:250000:1;24839:176:144:15.0:180000:1

    a=rtpmap:123 x-ulpfecuc/90000





    m=application 10014 RTP/AVP 100

    a=rtpmap:100 H224/4800



  8. Anni Takison says:

    I read your blog. Its informative post regarding <a href="

    ">Microsoft Lync software</a>. Video Interoperability with lync really awesome feature to use in it. This feature comes with now some extra-ordinary function. It work well even in low network signal. Thanks to share this post. For more info about lync,

  9. BaldGuy says:

    Why is it that Cisco needs to conform to the needs of MS-SIP signaling?  Why wouldn't we, as consumers, demand that Microsoft drop the idiotic clinging to proprietary signaling methods?  Cisco utilizes standards compliant signaling and media for video.  MS, get with the game and open your systems.  Your implementation of H.264 is a great step, but you fall short in keeping your proprietary signaling.  The world doesn't revolve around you.  Cisco should not be expected to alter its standards-compliant VCS simply to cater to your whims.  

  10. Karel van Tuijl says:

    How far do we take Lync video interoperability for multitenant O365 users?

    Thx, Karel

  11. Venkatesha Reddy says:

    HI Shelly, good article. One query regarding the integration of VCS with Lync 2013. You have mentioned about Minor Modifications on VCS. Where can i find the details of these modifications on the VCS? Could you please provide details on it?



    Dimension Data India

  12. james says:

    Once again, MSFT continues it's policy of embrace, extend and extinguish.

  13. Rob says:

    I agree with several other people. Why should Cisco or any other vendor that provides open standards bow to MS.  Any executive will ask why in the world would I want to throw out my video conference just to install MS?  Is MS going to buy all of my equipment that I have sunk cost in? MS you need to wake up and become interoperable between different systems.  Cisco, Avaya and other have tried this an learned the lesson the hard way. When you do not have open architecture components then you will continue to struggle.  Remember the other companies have accomplished UC&C a lot longer and successfully without MS.

  14. Anonymous says:

    Pingback from Cisco VCS 8.1 update now enables Integration with Lync 2013 in HD. | Refik ??NVER blog

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